Nucon crop., a 10-year old firm that has outsourced all molding and production of its line of plastic pallets, is investing about $7 million to build and equip its own 45,000-square-foot structural foam molding plant in Pleasant Priarie, Wis. Pallets continue to be a strong market for plastics. Nucon recently announced an order in Europe to supply 500,000 pallets during the next five years.
Molding should begin in Wisconsin in October on two new structural foam machines from Johnson Controls Inc. and one 500-ton injection molding machine from Cincinnati Milacron Inc., according to Nucon President Peter Pigott. The plant, located about 20 miles north of Nucon headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., will employ about 40.
Pigott said each of the low-pressure machines has a clamping force of 400 tons. He said the machines boast a large shot size, but declined to give the exact amount.
For about the past five years, several outside molders have made the pallets, developed by Nucon founder Maurice Pigott. Peter Pigott, his son, said those companies will continue to make the pallets even after Nucon begins molding.
``It's our intention to do our own molding and at the same time to continue our relationship with the custom molders we've been using,'' Pigott said.
Those structural foam molders include Vision Molded Plastics Ltd. in Napoleon, Ohio; DeKalb Molded Plastics Co. of Butler, Ind.; and Horizon Plastics Ltd. of Cobourg, Ontario. Another molder, Fort Wayne Plastics Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind., no longer supplies Nucon, Pigott said.
Nucon has changed from its original pallet material, polypropylene, to polyethylene. The company continues to use some recycled plastic in the pallets.
Plastic pallets initially won favor in the automotive industry, where they are used to ship parts in closed-loop routes back and forth between car plants. In recent years, they have begun to penetrate other markets, including food processing and grocery distribution.
The Nucon pallet has a snap-fit design, making it easy to take apart and repair.
Pigott called pallets ``a huge market'' as plastics compete against wood.
``In general, the trend is positive for all plastic pallets. The future looks good for all of us,'' he said.
Nucon may look at other products once production begins at the Wisconsin factory, but Pigott said pallets will remain its core product.
``We try to stay focused on that. We're niche marketers. We're always keeping our eyes open for other markets, but we've got our plate full now with the pallets.''
Demand for plastic pallets just seems to keep rolling along. Nucon's recently announced order for 500,000 of them is for Nacanco, the European manufacturing operations of American National Can Co. ANC is already a major Nucon customer in the United States.
Currently, Vision Molded Plastics is making the Nacanco pallets, Pigott said. By the second quarter of 1996, the European pallets will be molded at a plant in Ieper, Belgium, that is a joint venture of Nucon and Innova Packaging Systems NV, a Belgian pallet maker. Later in 1996, a second European factory will open, in the United Kingdom.
Nucon holds more than a dozen patents on pallets.